This blog is one I’m really looking forward to sharing. I didn’t want to join the masses on the New Year resolutions and throwbacks, so I decided to instead reflect. This blog will look back over the past 12 months since I found myself on the start line for my first triathlon. Without being too dramatic, it was an experience that has helped me build a pretty amazing life in only 12 months.
I guess all good stories start somewhere so off we go. As most people know I’d spent the past few years searching for a sport that I was A) good at, and B) a Paralympic sport, with goals of being an Australian Paralympian in the future. Safe to say this goal has occupied a lot of my head space over the past few years, and no doubt will for years to come. Towards the end of 2017 I was pretty lost in my search. I swam quite a bit, but not very well, and not exactly very fast in the scheme of things, but I loved it. So I was torn because I knew that I could put everything I had into that, and still fall very short of where I wanted to be. This led to an open mind that I might have to get uncomfortable and try something new.
At this point I may have been nudged by a few really important people from the START Foundation, who mentioned that I should look into doing a triathlon in the near future. I agreed but never set anything in stone, essentially paying lip service to it all. Then I met someone else who tried to steer me into the sport, and I finally took the hint that maybe everyone else could see something that I had no idea about. I wouldn’t say I was bullied into my first race by a friend, but I was definitely pursued very actively to join up for the Oceania Championships in St Kilda in January 2018.
So at the point of signing up it’s safe to say I had no idea what I was in for. At the time I thought I hated running. I had never run 5KM in my life, didn’t have a running blade, I didn’t own a bike, and had never swum in an open water race. I didn’t have a bloody clue! (I might not still!).
Despite all those warning signs that it may not be a good plan to try and prepare for a race in fiveweeks with no idea, I decided to give it a shot. When trying something new if it’s not challenging or confronting it’s probably not worth my time in my eyes.
Fast forward to race day and to say I was shitting myself would’ve been an understatement. Then to find out the swim (which was my favourite of the three at this point) had been cancelled for more running did not fill me with much joy. Now to add to the pre race jitters I was also pretty new to this shiny new lycra clad community so it was all pretty overwhelming.
Now at the risk of making myself look like an idiot (who am I kidding?), I’ll share what still to me is one of the funniest things that has happened. I got a slight tap on my shoulder on the way to the start line from a friend who said “Mate before you go, no big deal, but your race suit is on backwards. So maybe just go swap it around before you start.” I said: “That makes so much sense! I was very confused about the pockets on my stomach.” That is a moment that saved me a lot of stick. Up until right now…Oh well, if you can’t laugh at yourself. (I hope I can eventuallylive that down.)
Anyway the gun goes off and bang, it took me about 45 seconds to start enjoying the race. I realised in the moment nothing else mattered except getting myself from point A to point B however I could. It was a physical and mental challenge I hadn’t experienced before. Swimming was always over before it started it seemed. Triathlon gave me the chance to experience a race and all the bits and pieces that come with it.
So whilst competing all I could think was “holy shit when is this going to be over?” and the second it finished all I could think was “when’s the next one?” I found what I wanted to do that morning. Because despite lack of all God given talent and ability I had passed my two point test. I wasn’t bad at it (to say I was or am good could be a stretch!) and it is a Paralympic classification.
Thank god I took the plunge to try it that day. Because as a result I’ve had the best year of my life. I’ve been lucky enough over the past 12 months to travel around Australia and continue to race and test myself, to have joined the National Paratriathlon Team and represent Australia internationally for the first time in Canada. I’ve met some amazing people, from athletes, coaches, staff and spectators. I’ve been involved with some incredible organisations throughout these 12 months such as The START Foundation, The Black Dog Institute, The Tattersalls Club in Sydney, Naboso Australia, The Bondi Bike Doctor, Jason McCormack Photography, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and the Make A Wish Australia team, AMP Tomorrow Makers, Elotik Pro Triathlon and Sports Myo and lastly Team Twomey at home. I’ve left my life in Sydney to commit 100 per cent to training with a new (bloody good) coach. I’ve ticked a few items off the bucket list, such as the City2Surf in Sydney, and the Noosa Triathlon.
There has been many a moment where I’ve been able to sit there and pinch myself about what can happen over a 12 month period if a goal is set. After that first race my goal was this: to invest myself as much as I could into the sport for a year. If I didn’t see any progress or didn’t enjoy it anymore, I would move on. I think I’ve improved enough to have got a good return on my investment in time so I’m definitely going to be sticking at this for the foreseeable future.
I mentioned earlier there was a lot of people I’ve met along the way, and I really do want to acknowledge them a bit more. For an individual sport, I’ve had a lot of help. I’ve been grateful for every bit of it, so to the team at the START Foundation for the not so gentle nudge in the back from the start, thank you. To the Black Dog Institute, and the team at the Tattersalls club (mainly the guys in lanes 1-4 on Friday mornings) thank you for going above and beyond to help make these goals become realities. I appreciate Naboso Australia for taking a leap of faith with me, and to my coach Danielle at Elotik for the sessions that make me questions whether I hate you or not, thank you.
But back to the race that’s just been! Obviously there was no real way to compare the results, due to doing essentially two completely different races. So 12 months on and not a lot has changed. I still know next to nothing about the sport, (don’t ask me to help change your tyres!), I’m still shitting myself before a race (only slightly now) and I still absolutely love racing, despite the hurt.
This would’ve easily been the best 12 months of my life. On every level. The most exciting thing about it is that this is just the beginning.
P.S A big thanks to @witsupcom for all the great race shots too! www.witsup.com